PRESS RELEASE: Good news! Bill Gates divests from Israeli-linked G4S Security company.

Following calls from Palestine solidarity and BDS activists Microsoft founder Bill Gates has began divesting from the controversial security company G4S. G4S is complicit in Israel's illegal detention, torture and incarceration of Palestinian political prisoners.

The world’s richest man Bill Gates held a stake of more than 3pc in the FTSE 100 group through Cascade Investment (his private investment vehicle) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The stake amounted to more than $170 million (over 1 billion rands) worth of shares in G4S. However, according to a stock exchange filing on Wednesday (28 May 2014), the holding in G4S has been sold down to less than 3pc, the lowest threshold at which investors have to declare stakes. The filing does not say how many, if any, G4S shares Mr Gates still holds.

Bill Gates and his charity organisation the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (the largest charitable foundation in the world) has come under increasing international pressure from Palestine solidarity activists in recent months for investing in G4S. Earlier this year in April, to mark the international Palestine Political Prisoners Day (17 April), human rights campaigners, Palestine solidarity members and BDS activists held protests at the various offices of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - including at the Johannesburg offices of the Gates Foundation (click here for photos). The protests called on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to divest from the controversial security company G4S due to G4S Security's complicity in Israeli human rights abuses. A petition with more than 11 000 signatories was also handed over to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Mthunzi Mbuli, a campaigner at BDS South Africa welcomed the decision by Bill Gates and the Bill Gates Foundation to divest from G4S:
"As South Africans we painfully identify with the plight of the Palestinians in general and Palestinian prisoners in particular. When we see the Israeli imprisonment, facilitated by G4S, of our Palestinian comrades, we are reminded of how our mothers and fathers were imprisoned during Apartheid. We found it disturbing that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had in the first place invested in the notorious security company G4S which is complicit and is basically profiteering from Israel’s imprisonment, detention and torture of Palestinians - including Palestinian children. However, we are glad that following our protests and calls Bill Gates and his Foundation have began divesting from G4S."

Mbuli also thanked the various organizations that had joined the protests against the Bill Gates Foundation earlier in the year:"We would like to thank all organisations including SASCO, YCL, Swaziland Solidarity Network, WFTU and others that had joined BDS South Africa earlier this year in calling on the Gates Foundation to divest from G4S. In particular we would like to thank the Ex-political Prisoners Association of South Africa led Comrade Mpho Masemola."

Rafeef Ziadah, a UK-based human rights campaigner with the British anti-poverty group War on Want (that had also participated earlier this year in the worldwide protests against the Gates Foundation) commented: “We are glad the pressure on the Gates Foundation to divest from G4S is starting to work. We urge the foundation to sell any remaining shares it still holds."

According to the United Nations, over 750 000 Palestinians (roughly 40% of Palestinian men) have been imprisoned by Israel at one point in time. According to the European Union, about 100 000 Palestinians have been held by Israel in "administrative detention" (the equivalent of Apartheid South Africa's "Detention without trial"). Similar to the experience of Black families under Apartheid, almost every Palestinian family has been affected by the Israeli imprisonment of a relative. In the last 11 years alone, more than 7500 Palestinian children have been detained in Israeli prisons and detention facilities (including being held in solitary confinement) with Muhammad Daoud Dirbas, at the age of six, being the youngest Palestinian child to have been detained by Israeli soldiers. Currently, there are over 5000 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel; 137 of them are being held under Israel's "administrative detention" (Apartheid South Africa's "Detention Without Trial") and 210 of them are children.

In 2007 G4S was contracted to provide and maintain Israeli prisons, torture centres and detention facilities. Although initially claiming that it intends to terminate its Israeli contracts, G4S still operates in Israel and with the Israeli regime. G4S also provides equipment and services to Israeli checkpoints and Israel's illegal Jewish-only settlements in the occupied Palestinian West Bank (click here to download the United Nations Special Rapporteur report with details of G4S and its illegal activities in Israel [Pages 15 & 16]). Due to this Israeli involvement, in 2012, Palestinian prisoners and prisoner support organisations called for an international boycott of G4S as part of the global Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign. In October 2012, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights made special mention of G4S as one of the international companies that should be boycotted for their involvement in Israel. In a news release, the UN Special Rapporteur, Richard Falk, said: “My main recommendation is that the businesses highlighted in the report – as well as the many other businesses that are profiting from the Israeli settlement enterprise – should be boycotted".
In recent years G4S, the world largest security company, has been the target of several successful international boycott actions and campaigns led by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel (BDS) movement due to its controversial involvement in "Israeli human rights abuses and illegal detainment of Palestinian political prisoners”. The boycott and BDS campaign against G4S (for its role in Israel) has achieved several successes around the world including in South Africa. In November 2010 the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT) in Denmark ended its contract with G4S. Pat Nissen of RCT explaining the RCT decision said: “G4S as a company is helping to facilitate torture.” In October 2011, the Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA) overwhelmingly passed a motion through its Student Council to block their contract with G4S in protest of G4S' involvement in "Israeli Apartheid". In January 2012, Amnesty International in Denmark terminated its contract with G4S (after initially trying to influence G4S policies). “We do not want to work with G4S because the company’s global activities do not live up to Amnesty International’s requirements in relation to human rights,” commented Amnesty International secretary Lars Normann Jørgensen. On the 31st of October 2013, the University of Bergen became the second Norwegian university to boycott G4S. Significantly, in this case, G4S presented the lowest priced offer in the security tender proposals but the Norwegian university added an estimated loss of 2,5 million NOK (R4,1 million rands/ $400 000 dollars) related to potential reputational damage that the University would suffer if they chose to award their security contract to G4S due to the involvement of G4S in Israel's illegal detention facilities, torture centers and incarceration of Palestinian political prisoners. On 06 November 2013, the renown Trauma Centre in Cape Town ended its contract with G4S over G4S’ role in Israeli imprisonment of Palestinians.

11th Floor | Braamfontein Centre | 23 Jorissen Street | Braamfontein | Johannesburg
PO Box 2318 | Houghton | 2041 | Johannesburg
T: +27 (0) 11 403 2097 | M: +27 (0) 84 211 9988 | F: +27 (0) 86 650 4836
W: | E: |

BDS South Africa is a registered Non-Profit Organization. NPO NUMBER: 084 306 NPO
BDS South Africa is a registered Public Benefit Organisation with Section 18A status. PBO NUMBER: 930 037 446